Bob DeRosa spent more than two decades as a New York City firefighter, rushing into people’s homes at their darkest hour. Since moving to Arizona and joining Holy Spirit parish 22 years ago, he’s found another way to rescue people.
The people DeRosa helps today are not victims of fires or heart attacks — they are those who are confined to their homes, unable to attend church due to illness or injury. DeRosa visits the sick on Saturdays, bringing Communion and endeavoring to lighten people’s hearts with his friendly demeanor.
Parish: Holy Spirit in Tempe
Apostolates: Usher, extraordinary minister, ministry to the homebound.
The glue that holds his faith together: I think that God has a plan for us and even though that road may be tough and may be winding, He does have a plan for us and we have to keep our faith. In the end we will survive.
What keeps him going when he gets discouraged: My faith is my strength. It’s gotten me through many difficulties in my own personal journey. I believe God has a plan for me and I try to live up to that plan.
What he loves about being a Catholic: I love the Mass. I love the tradition of the Church. As I’ve gotten older, I look back on the tradition of the Church, the importance of the Mass and being involved in the Mass.
“It’s a very rewarding experience to go into someone’s home that you don’t know — someone who could be dying, depressed or lonely — and spend time with them,” DeRosa said. “To give them Communion, to pray with them and just to sit there and listen — I think we lose sight of the fact of how many people have nobody.”
He remembers an elderly woman from Pittsburgh who was a huge Pirates fan.
“All this woman wanted to do was hold my hand and talk about baseball,” DeRosa said. “We’d go over the same thing every Saturday.”
Seeing someone besides a caregiver or doctor cheers people up, DeRosa said. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world to help somebody like that.”
Those who are able to come to Mass get a big dose of DeRosa’s friendliness too. He’s an usher and he sees the many elderly parishioners who cross through the church’s doorway.
“They may not see anybody all week long until they come to Mass,” DeRosa said. “They connect with an usher or reader, just someone who can talk to them and listen. That’s what I try to do.”
About 10 years ago, DeRosa experienced a deepening of his Catholic faith. “I saw the people that I came in contact with in this parish as an extended family,” he said. “I’ve tried as an usher or [Extraordinary] Minister to be that link to God just by greeting somebody. If somebody can’t walk or is blind, to help them, to see whatever they need at Mass, that we can do that.”
Over the years, he’s had people approach him after an elderly parent or loved one has passed away. They remember his kindness and thank him for caring.
“That’s what this parish is all about,” DeRosa said, “the sense of community.”
In addition to his other activities at Holy Spirit, DeRosa is also involved in a men’s prayer group called Ora Et Labora which meets on the last Monday of each month. Members begin with silent prayer and meditation and then shift into praying the Evening Prayer of the Church.
The group prays for the needs of the parish, written in a book of intentions, as well as for all the men of the parish who passed away during the month.
DeRosa made a novena to St. Jude some years ago after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lived another 20 years after her diagnosis and DeRosa still asks for the saint’s intercession in his life today.